Despite so much promise in the 5th round of peace talks, the government peace panel will no longer sit across the negotiating table following the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands – After a series of tension-filled encounters, the government of the Philippines (GRP) has decided to call off the 5th round of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CNN).
The 5th round of talks was scheduled for 27 May to 2 June 2017 in the Netherlands and would have seen the two parties take another step towards forging a peace accord. Negotiations on socio-economic reforms were on the agenda, as well as constitutional reforms and, hopefully, the ceasefire.
But despite so much promise in the 5th round of peace talks, the government peace panel will no longer sit across the negotiating table following the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Jesus Dureza said that the GRP peace panel was told not to participate “until such time as there are clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace in the land.”
In a press conference on Sunday, 28 May 2017, Sec. Dureza stated: “The government panel is now left without any other recourse but to announce, with due respects to our counterparts and to our facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government that it will not proceed to participate in the scheduled 5th round of peace negotiations.”
After the announcement, both parties had tried to salvage the talks to the best of their abilities, but after a phone call between Sec. Dureza and Peace Panel Chairman Sec. Silvestre Bello III, the President put his foot down and the 5th round of talks were finally called off.
Sec. Dureza and Sec. Bello had left for the Netherlands on Friday, 26 May 2017 to formally notify the CNN and the third party facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government, of the president’s decision. Other members of the peace panel had earlier arrived and were awaiting final marching orders.
The root of the breakdown of the 5th round of talks seems to be the statement made by the CNN. As Sec. Dureza elaborated, the serious development in the talks is the blatant public announced decision of the Communist Party of the Philippines in ordering the New People’s Army rebels to accelerate and intensify attacks against the government in the face of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
The Royal Norwegian Government commented in a press conference, following the breakdown of the 5th round of peace talks, that in their experience all peace processes will always have difficulties; however, they remain confident and hopeful that the two parties will reconcile and meet again at the peace table.
A silver lining is that the 5th round may have been cancelled, but at least the peace talks overall are still in full swing and have not been suspended.